In our study of James chapter five, we look at the difference between hope in God and hope in things of this world.
"Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you." NIV translation
James gets your attention right out of the gate. To begin, we must examine who he is talking about and understand that, in James' time, there was no middle class only the very rich and the very poor.
The majority of Christians came from the very poor and this is what Jesus was talking about when he described how difficult it is for a rich man to get to heaven (see Luke 18:18-30). He is talking, here, to those that do not know Jesus but are very rich in worldly possessions. It is easy for us to say that we are not rich but, if you are reading this, you probably are rich. If you have food, clothing, and a place to sleep, then, you are richer than 75% of the people on the planet! If you have any money, then you are in the top 92% of rich people in the world!
"Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days." NIV translation
James explains what he meant by misery is coming. We see that these people put their hope in wealth and material possessions. Not only are they not going to have the things forever but the things are going to show what truly mattered to them. Jesus spoke about the same thing (see Matthew 6:19-21) and told us to store up treasures in heaven instead of treasures on earth.
"Look! The wages you failed to pay the workmen who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty." NIV translation
Not only were these people hoarding wealth but they were getting it by stealing from the poor. It might be easy for us to say that we don't do that or we don't have harvesters to pay but, when a fair wage is not paid for the work that someone performs for you, you are stealing from them. The cries of these people reach God and He takes notes.
"You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter." NIV translation
James continues to describe what the rich people were doing and he turns to the issue of charity. He tells them that they have lived comfortably on earth while others were suffering and they will be held accountable. An example of this is the story of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31. The same thing applies to us today as God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.